The sins of the fathers visited upon the children

There is no Kilskeery Christian school assembly talk this week. The pupils are off on their mid-term break.

I want to think of children in a very different context in the light of God Word. I am referring to the little ones caught up in the terrorism and its aftermath in Gaza.

Irrespective of our inherent love of the nation from which our Lord Jesus Christ sprang and our abhorrence of the tactics and objectives of the Hamas terrorist group, we look with aching hearts at the many photos of the distress and fear etched on the faces of the children of Gaza, caused by the terror and suffering they are passing through.

I trust what I offer is a help to your understanding of the event in Israel, at least to some degree.

Sincerely in Christ’s name,

Ivan Foster


“The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation,” Numbers 14:18.

These words were spoken by Moses as he interceded for rebellious Israel who were intent on further defying God in their bid to return to Egypt. The chapter begins with these words.

“And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt,” 1-4.

These words show the perverted ‘logic’ that springs from ignorance and unbelief. The rebellion and defiance sprang up amongst the people as the ‘spies’ returned from surveying the ‘promised land’.

The report of the spies is worth noting.

“And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan,” Numbers 13:25-29.

Their report confirmed the Word of God to Moses while he was still in Moab, hiding from the Egyptians.

“And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God. And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt,” Exodus 3:3-10.

Yet, despite seeing the evidence of God’s faithfulness to His promise, they look upon the factors that stood between them and the enjoyment of God’s promise and immediately questioned whether the Lord was able to complete His promised deliverance and overthrow the wicked inhabitants of the land of Canaan and give it to His people.

That this was indeed the thinking of the people may be seen in the response of the two faithful spies, Joshua and Caleb.

“And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not,” Numbers 14:6-9.

The words of our text are part of the prayer of Moses as he pleads for forgiveness of the people for their folly, even as the Lord has done before. “Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now,” verse 19.

There is a very solemn warning in the words of our text regarding the just character of God. Yes, He is “longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression”. But He is also JUST!

He by no means will simply clear the guilty, ignore their sin and allow them to go unpunished, but He will visit “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.”


At Calvary, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other,” Psalm 85:10. Sin is pardoned, not on the basis that God simply ignores the guilt and the culpability of the sinner, no, the sinner is forgiven on the basis that his sin was punished in the person of a ‘substitute’, one who took his place and suffered the wrath of God that was due to him for his manifold transgressions.

That PERSON was Christ! “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God,” 1 Peter 3:18.

Christ’s death on the cross was that He “might bring us to God”! As the Prodigal was brought before the father and pardoned and reconciled and welcomed most kindly, so it is with those who rest in the work of Christ on the cross as the atonement for their sins.

The old hymn states it well.

He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered, and died alone.

How marvellous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvellous! How wonderful!
Is my Saviour’s love for me!

‘My sins were eternally punished and I go free’ is the cry of the pardoned, justified, believing sinner who is resting on the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Dear reader, there is no salvation for any who are depending on their own good works, church attendance, kindness and charity to others or any other actions considered virtuous. That is not my opinion but it is the truth of God!

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. . . . Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” Romans 3:20, 28.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” Titus 3:5-7.

“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them,” Hebrews 7:25.

The second thing I would have you notice is:


The word ‘visit’ (Hebrew paw-kad) first appears in “And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken,” Genesis 21:1.

That tells you what the word means. The Lord came to Sarah. Even so it will be with those who reject the gospel. The Lord will come to them. They refused to come to the Saviour  BUT the God of Judgment will, in His time, come to them.

1. The first element of this visit happens at death. Just recently I was asked where our soul goes when we die. I replied that it depended on whether we were converted or unconverted! The direction taken by the soul of the converted person is very different from those unconverted!

“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. . . . We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord,” 2 Corinthians 5:1, 8.

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . . . . For I am in a strait (narrow place) betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better,” Philippians 1:21, 23.

For the Christian death translates us immediately into the presence of the Lord.

That is not so with the unconverted! Here is a story the Saviour told His disciples in order to teach them “that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 19:23.

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: (a Jewish phrase by which they commonly expressed the happiness of the future state) the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, Luke 16:22-23.

The unconverted sinner is instantly in hell’s torments when they die.

But it does not end there!

2. The second element of this visit will happen at the great white throne of judgment.

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire,” Revelation 20:12-15.

The final phrase in this quotation indicates just who it is ends in “the lake of fire”. It is “whosoever was not found written in the book of life.”

Let no one be deceived on this matter. Time and time again I have heard reaction to the death of someone whose life was marked by immorality, foul language and NO MENTION WHATEVER of any faith in God, as a blithe stating of their presence in ‘heaven, looking down’ on those who remain!

This is utterly delusionary, a figment of depraved and ignorant man’s imagination!

Those who lived for sin here on earth cannot expect to be transported to that place where no sin can enter. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life,” Revelation 21:27.

How many millions live contentedly, enwrapped in this blanket of lies! Dear reader, I trust you are one of them!

3. The final element of this visit will endure throughout all eternity. That is beyond our comprehension and imagination.

The Lord dwells in the realms of eternity.

“The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,” Revelation 4:10.

“And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer,” Revelation 10:5-6.

So too is the duration of the delights of the redeemed.

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 1:10-11.

Thus we read that the torments of the lost is likewise eternal.

“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name,” Revelation 14:9-11.

This a reference specifically to the last of the sinners on the earth in this age, who were deceived by the devil into worshipping the Antichrist. We read of the devil’s damnation in Revelation 20:10. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

Please note the phrase, “where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever”. This damning of the devil takes place one thousand years after the damning of ‘the beast and the false prophet’, which took place at the time of the Saviour’s return in glory. “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone,” Revelation 19:20.

The devil’s damnation took place at the end of the one thousand years reign of Christ, which began upon His return.

“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever,” Revelation 20:4-10.

God in His mercy to sinners has warned mankind faithfully and repeatedly of this terrible fate that awaits the gospel rejector. Many of His people have died terrible deaths, endeavouring to carry out the Lord’s loving command to “preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark 16:15.

Those who have put forth their hand against God’s messengers have but ‘dug hell deeper’ for themselves!

Please note thirdly,


“Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” This is a truth with a special relevance to what is happening in Gaza today!

Let me make clear that while we support Israel and consider them God’s ancient covenant people for Whom He still has a wonderful purpose in grace, and through them during the Millennial Reign, a merciful time for the Gentile nations, which the prophet Isaiah, just one of the prophet to do so, set forth.

“And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever. Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising,” Isaiah 59:20 – 60:3.

However, the Lord Himself has spoken of the sinful state of Israel today. Of this time Hosea prophesied.“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days,” Hosea 3:4-5. Please note how the Lord has Hosea end his prophesy with a promise of future mercy! But presently, there are many little ones suffering in consequence of their Jewish forefathers’ folly and rejection of the their Messiah!

Now, having said that I support Israel in its present struggle I want to concentrate upon the sufferings of the children of Gaza.

I looked at a picture of grimy-faced little boy in the midst of the ruins of Gaza, tears steaming down his cheeks and even though I know that callous people make propaganda of such photographs, it was never the less heart-melting.

Whatever grief has caused that little boy to so weep will, sadly, likely feed a future hatred of the Jew!

I have just watched a BBC reporter interviewing the Israeli Prime Minister, challenging him to justify the death of hundreds of children as the Israeli army pursues the terrorist Hamas murderers in Gaza.

I cannot say that the Prime Minister made a satisfying response. It is not that he couldn’t, for he could, but he failed to do.

What is happening to the ‘people’ of Gaza, is what is referred to in our text. God is “visiting the iniquity of the (Palestinian) fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” In another place, there are added some more words: “of them that hate me”, Exodus 2:5.

Is there not a hatred of God abundantly manifested in Gaza and also amongst those who protest in support of them throughout the world? Yes there is. Gaza and all its supporters fairly exude the hatred of Islam for the truth of God and the God of Truth!

The slaughter on October 7th of innocent woman and children was born out of a hatred of Israel because they are the people chosen of God!

The people of Gaza have supported, nourished, succoured and concealed the murdering Hamas terrorists. I believe the claims of Israel that Hamas has secreted its headquarters, ammunition dumps and central command in under many civilian properties in an attempt to frustrate any attempt by Israel to attack them. Why do I believe Israel’s claims?


I am referring to the IRA. We have watched them organise riots with children and woman to the fore and the gunmen then ’sneaking’ a quick shot at the security forces before running away and escaping amidst the ranks of the women and children. Just as Hamas is going on a larger scale at present.

The combined ranks of the Nationalist politicians rose up in vociferous protests whenever any ‘civilian’ was injured or killed as the security forces took the necessary defensive action.

There never was any significant public protest against the evil tactics of the terrorists here and so it is in Gaza.

News reporters may well comment on the fact that Hamas is using civilians and such properties as hospitals as cover, though usually with a question mark attached to any suggestion that this is so. There is never a wholehearted condemnation of this cowardly and satanic ploy!

If a robber is discovered as he is engaged in his crime and in a bid to escape, he takes a hostage and the hostage is hurt in the ensuing attempt by law-enforcement officers to capture the law-breaker, who is to blame?

Is there a heaping of condemnation on those who sought to carry out the demands of the law or is the defier of the law the one condemned?

Apart from a few depraved anarchists, the general public blames the robber. That analogy holds good in the case of what is happening in Gaza!

We see the consequences of the sins of adults falling on children in the case of the drunkard, the drug addict and such like. We pity the poor children but we unhesitatingly blame the evil upon those who have inflicted their offspring with the fruit of their wickedness.

Those who share in the evil intents of the Hamas murderers and who sympathise with them and seek to give them cover from just retribution, bring down upon the heads of their children the divine judgment of God albeit at the hands of the soldiers of the Israeli army.

That happened long ago in reverse, as it were. The Babylonians were the instruments of divine justice upon rebellious Jews who refused to heed God’s warnings at the mouth of His prophets.

I will conclude with these verses from the book of Jeremiah.

“The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; the which Jeremiah the prophet spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, even unto this day, that is the three and twentieth year, the word of the LORD hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened. And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever: And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the LORD; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words, Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years,” Jeremiah 25:1-11.

There is an inevitable, inescapable consequence for sin carried out against all who defy and deny God. That is taking place before our eyes in Gaza!

Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
1st November 2023